Saturday, 31 March 2012

An interview with Tabitha of Grrrl Studies


I had the opportunity to interview Tabitha who runs one of my favourite feminist blogs grrrlstudies. It's in q and a format as it's in for my uni research opposed to like a serious editorial. However, I don't think it matters too much as her answers are wonderful. 

Why did you set up Grrrl Studies?
i had been blogging for a while, and i kept on wanting to post feminist stuff on my regular, 'personal' blog, and then i decided to start my own one just to create my own feminist space. i had just started university and studying gender studies and sociology had inspired me hugely, hence the title grrrlstudies.

How important do you feel pop culture is in contemporary feminist discourse?
i feel like it is massively important, as it is so pervasive in everyday life, and bombards us with gender stereotypical images and messages that lead to such warped views of what masculinity and femininity should be. it definitely creates an image of what is 'right' and 'normal' and then creates a barrier between people who reside in that 'normal' space and the people who don't, and this can be really damaging! basically yeah pop culture should be a really important part in contemporary feminist discourse. it completely surrounds us.

What led you to identify as a feminist?
a few things did. i would say my greater influences would have been my two english teachers in my final years in high school, ensuring that i studied jane eyre, sylvia plath, the wife of bath, the stepford wives and a room of one's own, which changed my way of thinking completely. i was already quite interested in social justice, i just didn't have the knowledge to back it up, or the breadth of critical thinking, which i am still developing right now - but yeah, i think that i identified as a feminist because it made sense to uphold women's rights. my family, in particular my paternal grandmother was a very active feminist in the seventies and eighties in nicaragua and that has influenced me a lot as well.

Do you feel that teenage girls are becoming more vocal in contemporary
feminist dialogues?
i think since the riot grrrl movement there has been a lot more room for feminism in youth culture. whether or not teenage girls are actually becoming more vocal is a bigger question though… while the slutwalks and other recent activism has seen a lot of teenage girls supporting feminism, i'm not sure whether any fresh opinions are being expressed or whether it's the same messages being rehashed. it's good that young girls can find a place in feminism, definitely. but i think there is still a lot of weight from the past on us, and also the way things have changed in terms of technology and communication has altered the way we can express ourselves as feminists. one young girl who has definitely shown herself to be an admirable young feminist is tavi gevinson (rookie lass). i like how the internet has democratised speech to a certain extent, it's a lot easier to find listeners.

Are there any particular blogs on feminism and gender identity that influence
and inspire you?
racialicious inspires me quite a bit, as do girlsgetbusy, girl-farts (for nice sex-pos stuff) and brazenbitch. autostraddle is quite good also :)

Do you feel there is a relationship between gender identity and pop culture?
absolutely, just because pop culture presents an image of what is right (cis genders, stereotypes) and then pushes away anything else to the realm of 'unacceptable'. pop culture products that portrays identities other than cismale/cisfemale are few and far between.

How do you see the position of the ‘girl’ in Western contemporary society? Is it
i think that if you read the chapter 'the girl' in simone de beauvoir's the second sex, 'the girl', it is largely still true, in how girls alter themselves when they become aware of the expectations society has for them. 
there are a lot more enlightened parents than there were fifty years ago, but there are also more pressures in terms of 'having everything' and perfectionistic standards placed upon girls. statistically speaking, things are shifting gender-wise in levels of education and career, but that won't necessarily alter the deeply ingrained beliefs about what being a girl means, and how other people treat you, as a girl. for it to shift there needs to be an ideological shift towards viewing women as actually equal to men and as people.

How important do you feel cinema is in the construction of gender identity?
very important! cinema is as important as any other form of cultural production, especially in its very visual and symbolic language. films can definitely shape what people perceive to be correct gender roles and expectations (and thus identity), a really simple example is disney films, and how they shape the identities of girls and boys through the portrayals of their male and female protagonists. 

Do you feel there are any feminist icons in pop culture (fictitious or
otherwise)? Is so can you give any examples?
feminist icons in pop culture for me would be daria (without a doubt), princess mononoke (of the ghibli film), sailor moon, and perhaps even miss piggy? 

Is there any particular feminist writers that influence and inspire your blog?
i was originally super inspired by virginia woolf, but also now bell hooks and her mentality of 'feminism is for everybody' - i try really hard not to exclude people with my blog, by both trying to empathise with people whose experiences i am not familiar with, and by not alienating people new to feminism by making my blog lighthearted as well as honest. i have a firm belief that while it should be taken seriously, feminism should be a lot of fun as well.

Thanks! :)


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